Some of the folks behind Angel Flight East Kootenay: Todd Weselake is a director, partner and pilot while Brent Bidston is the president and lead pilot of the not-for-profit. Pictured here with their older plane, they hope to get an upgrade for thanks to RDEK funding. (Image courtesy of Angel Flight East Kootenay)

Angel Flight secures RDEK funding for next five years

$100,000 will go to the not-for-profit each year, with the funds to be used to acquire a larger plane

Angel Flight East Kootenay will receive $100,000 a year for five years from the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK), after the board of directors unanimously voted to support the not-for-profit organization on Friday (Mar.5).

Founder and president of Angel Flight, Brent Bidston said it was a huge boost for what the charity would be able to do.

“The plan is to lever that money to get a much more capable airplane so we can serve the residents of the East Kootenay much more reliably,” said Bidston, who explained the wish-list for a new plane included anti-icing capability and a pressurized cabin if possible.

“There are many advantages (to a better plane), from our point of view we can fly in forecast icing, we can get high above the terrain and above the weather, and the trip is shorter.,” he said.

Reliability has been a major hurdle for Angel Flight so far due to the weather.

“We cancelled two flights today because of the really strong winds over the mountains, whereas if we could have gone high enough that wouldn’t have been so much of an issue,” said Bidston.

The charity, which has helped over a hundred patients from the East Kootenay access much-needed urgent (not emergency) medical care in Kelowna since it was founded last year is entirely volunteer-run, and funded through donations. The money from the RDEK is the first major injection of government funding since it was founded.

“I never ever expected support from the government for this. We’ve proved our principals and our formula and the clear benefits of getting a better airplane, and it’s fantastic to have this level of backing and confidence from the local councils,” said Bidston.

Bidston said that they were looking around for the right plane already and were well-immersed in the market, with hopes for the new plane to be acquired as soon as possible.

“We’re working on it right now,” he said. A new plane will be purchased using the funding through the RDEK and paid off as fast as possible.

The funding came with some attachments in oversight, with the RDEK board of directors agreeing it was their responsibility to ensure oversight of such a large sum of taxpayer money.

READ MORE: Wilks: RDEK funds for Angel Flight a ‘no-brainer’



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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